It sounds more like an episode of a children’s cartoon than American History. Love can’t stop looting, rioting, the flipping of cars and the smashing of windows. Love is just something we talk about before the inevitable violence. Right?
Scripture teaches us that exactly the opposite is true.
When the Ferguson riots began in 2014, it was an eruption of anger and resentment. Initially Captain Ronald Johnson was part of the police force responding to the riots.
“Five days in, the governor decided that he was going to make some changes and I had no idea that I would be the one that would be put in charge. I found out live, in front of everyone else.”
He decided that a new response was needed. One that came from love, not force.
“When my father was in his early thirty he was in a tragic car accident which partially paralyzed him, but growing up I always saw him walk with this strength. He just kept walking through life the best that he could. That was my motivation. I decided just to walk down the streets of Ferguson and see the people that were there, see their faces, hear their voices, and understand it.”
“For me it was a moment of not showing those titles in those uniforms. It was a moment of showing ourselves as being men, women, mothers, fathers, uncles and all those things we are before we put on any title that we may have. I chose not to wear my police vest, and everybody said, ‘Why didn’t you wear your vest?’ My wife of course was asking ‘Why aren’t you wearing your police vest?’”
“It was a challenging time, but I wanted to say to the people on the street that ‘I am you. I am a part of you and I don’t need protection from you.’ My faith was protecting me, my God was protecting me and at that moment, that’s all that I needed.”
When violence and hatred begins to rise, Jesus outlines our response.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:27-36
When Captain Johnson put away the riot shields and bulletproof helmets, choosing instead to walk among the protesters as a fellow man, it changed everything.
“So I’m walking down the street, not knowing what the reaction was going to be, and this lady comes out of the crowd in tears. She hugs me and says ‘Thank you. Thank you for saving my faith.’ At that moment I knew that all I needed to do was walk. That was my plan, it was the plan that God was giving me. Now about 4 or 5 months later I saw her out in the community and she said, ‘Do you know me?’ I honestly had to say no. She said, ‘I’m the woman who came up to hug you, my name is Angel.’”
“What a name, and what a moment that the first person to hug me and give me the strength to continue walking was named Angel.”
“I talk about this idea of people being color blind. People aren’t color blind. People need not be color blind. When we’re color blind we’re not seeing the value in each other. By seeing each other, we see the value difference in experience. It could become the shared conversation because we share more with each other when we’re different.”
“I always say that we should try to meet people that are different than us. I think that’s something they’ll all need to continue to do throughout our life. Then when we meet some more, we talk about who we are and we let them tell us who they are. Then we go back and digest that and we will find out that we’re more alike than we are different.”
“When we do that we become better people. So as parents we need to have those conversations early on with our kids. We have to introduce them to the most diverse community and ideas that we can.”
Captain Johnson lived a real life example of the Battle of Jericho. There was a wall of anger, hatred, and destruction running through the streets of Ferguson, and he chose not to fight it, but to stand within it. He showed compassion, love, and a genuine care for the people who were hurting. When chaos and evil enters our lives, we don’t need to prepare for war. We need to prepare our hearts for a genuine moment of letting the love of Christ shine through.
Ronald S. Johnson was born in St. Louis and was instrumental in defusing the tension in Ferguson, Missouri during the 2014 riots. He joined the Highway Patrol in 1987, shortly after graduating from college, and was quickly promoted through the ranks before becoming a Captain in 2002.Stopping the Ferguson riots with love